As adults, we have no idea how to go to sleep. We do sleep. But we pass out. We “crash”. But the intentional act of “putting ourselves to bed” ended when our care givers/parents stopped reading us stories when we were kids. I can hear my mother saying: “Michael, its time for bed.”
We don’t do this as adults. We are idiots.
We make time to work out, pray, see friends, have sex, see our children and go to work. However, GOING TO sleep, as an intentional part of our day lives in the shoot-from-the-hip “let’s do the best we can” nonsense of people who don’t want to take responsibility for being rested or really their overall wellness. How do I know? The numbers…
Forty-five percent of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s inaugural Sleep Health Index™. That’s a lot of people. I assert that many more people have sleep issues that simply don’t report them or they have sleep issues as something that cannot be dealt with because “it is the way it is”. This notion is also nonsense.
There are simple steps to putting yourself to sleep. For the record, I said “simple” not “easy”. For some, managing the steps I outline below will be like climbing Mount Everest. However, first, a quick story:
In 2009, I weighed almost 340 pounds and I am 5 feet 8 inches tall. I lost about 60 pounds and kept off the weight. Last year, my doctor said point blank: you MUST lose 100 pounds NOW. You are 50 years old, you have severe sleep apnea and the combination of the weight, your lack of sleep and lack of oxygen to your brain at night and how your fat forces your skeleton and muscles to compensate is bad. Really bad. So, since July 2016, I have lost 73 pounds through diet, CrossFit and the support of my wife, family and friends. The sleep apnea has gone. In the process, I have learned a lot about sleep and how to put yourself to sleep — naturally. Cue the music… (literally).
I am an Emmy® award-winning composer and recording artist. I have made much music that every single person reading this has heard. In learning about sleep — — I discovered that music can be a powerful ally in conditioning your body to go to sleep. It’s what doctors call “entrainment”. Entrainment is 20 minutes to an hour BEFORE attempting to fall asleep where you slow-down, relax and let your natural level of melatonin rise. Doctors also talk about something called “sleep hygiene”. People are obsessed with their oral hygiene or their personal hygiene. However, they seem to step-over sleep hygiene every night because they’re too busy or too cool or too whatever to bring a little discipline to their nightly rituals.
How to Fall Asleep:
- Complete everything you did and did not do today. Do not obsess. Do not make yourself or anyone else wrong. If so, get in action to complete whatever needs to done BEFORE doing steps 2–6.
- Now, unplug from your computer, television or phone for at least 20 minutes before attempting to go to sleep. Really. No “white light”. It stimulates your brain and makes the process of winding-down much more difficult. Checking your email before sleep is a really bad idea in the world of entrainment. See #1.
- Lay in bed and relax. Listen to music! Read a book. 20–60 minutes.
- Breathe. If you concentrate on breathing, you cannot focus on anything else. It’s one of the miracles of Yoga and meditation.
- As you relax, push your thoughts away and lose yourself in the music. Take deep breaths now. Slow your heart rate. Feel yourself relax into the bed or whatever you are laying on. Muscles as relaxed as possible.
- Now you can attempt to fall asleep.
I just finished an album designed to be your entrainment “soundtrack”. It’s not that dumb “sleep” music that is based on brainwaves with alien-like tones that you’re embarrassed to buy or admit that you listen to it. The music is lovely and creates a beautiful environment for you to relax INTO as you give yourself permission to sleep, rest and be in touch with your wellness. It’s called “Dream Cycle”. The people who have used it for their entrainment sessions report GREAT success with it. I have been using the music for about 6 months. It works because I want it to work. This is key: by bringing compassion and caring to this you will be far more successful than if you force yourself or your roommate into something. Choosing this new path and creating it as a daily practice will unlock HUGE long-term benefits.
Create “putting yourself to bed” as an act of love for yourself and everyone who has to encounter you in the morning!
Michael Whalen is an Emmy® award-winning composer, music supervisor, professor, author and thought leader on digital rights and music copyrights. He is also a dad, a CrossFit newbie and is doing a “SleepWell” concert on April 15th, 2017 in New York City. Tickets here.
Originally published at medium.com